How technology can provide tools for connecting with family and recording family histories
By Larrie Wanberg
Cyber Week is the only five-day “weekend” of the calendar year, which yields many more “deals” than the mall, and sets the stage for a 7-month adventure that ends in a legacy at a trail’s end in Norway in 2014.
It started for me on Thanksgiving Day when I sat in front of my iPad in North Dakota and connected with my family in California via “GoToMeeting” that enabled our family to interact together from three different home sites. I could watch the kitchen preparations, talk individually with family members “face-to-face” as if we were around a table, and wave with greetings to great grandchildren at play.
On the following “Black Friday,” I took a giant step forward with an upgrade of my ailing smart phone to the new generation iPhone 5s. This new tool sparks a genealogy journey for me, because the device facilitates adding visual stories with photos and video clips of both ancestors and descendents to my family’s collective family tree.
The upcoming journey to trace my family roots goes back in time to the very origins of my family to a patch of land where a family name first enters archival documents in Viking times.
I value my new smart phone for what it enables me (or anyone) to do to capture and preserve stories along my travels and to promote the method as a collective family initiative with my grandchildren.
I am practicing to produce one-to-three minute “iMovies” and post them on a Web portal for the extended family anywhere in the world to view and contribute to. Earlier this week, I began exploring an expanded “cyber world” that I held in my hand and stored in my pocket to view some favorite genealogy sites that were trail markers to guide me on travels beyond the horizon and into Cyberspace.
Friday was also Story Corps’ sixth annual “National Day of Listening” (www.storycorps.org), so I participated online to add a Veteran story that I witnessed about a Viet Nam POW who after years of captivity, stepped off an Air Force medical flight in 1973 to meet a five-year-old son that he didn’t know he had until hours before, as unknown to him, his wife had died in childbirth. This story, indelible imbedded in my memory, then and now, caused me to reflect on the how stories today can be simply recorded and preserved online.
While surfing in “Cyber World,” I reflected on the hardships of my ancestors, re-envisioning my maternal grandfather during frontier days who’s first two wives died in childbirth and he, with his third wife – my grandmother – struggled to get their four children educated and into career paths of community service.
The next day was “Small Business Saturday.” Renewed thoughts were exchanged among family members to structure a family enterprise on a “Co-op” model, based on a concept of the more one invests in family growth, the greater the dividend.
Sunday was a day of reflection on genealogy, so it was dubbed “Story Sunday.” A few family hours were dedicated on Sunday afternoon to network interactively toward tracing our roots and developing a visual “family tree.” The method is based on the www.storycenter.org model of digital storytelling in Berkeley, which is popular in Norway, and now is offering “home-schooling-type” online learning as a way to create and preserve crafted stories.
On Cyber Monday, I began to apply established methods to preserve stories of history and heritage for my family and for like-minded travelers on a journey to trace their roots to the origins of their family names.
I’m preparing for a scheduled tour to Norway in 2014, when I’m personally planning to retrace the migrations of my heritage and document the journey visually for my descendents. Traveling backwards in time, I’m intending to visually document the places along the gene-linked trail from current home places, to ancestral migrations westward, emigration from Norway, and to the place where the family name originated along a fjord.
In a social media role, I’m accompanying well-known author Lauraine Snelling’s travels on a “Discovering Ingeborg’s Roots” tour to Norway in June, 2014 that retraces the story of her fictitious central character with a visit to the ancestral home farms where the real-life Ingeborg lived her lifetime in Hallingdal and Valdres. Plans are being developed to daily “blog” Lauraine’s experience on the ten-day trip and to coach tour members to use a smart phone to document their own visual reflections along the way to their families.
During Cyber Week, the greatest ongoing value that I learned about cyber tools is the capacity of a mobile devise to bring alive the stories from a family’s photo book on the living room coffee table or from a community’s library, museum or memorial park, which can preserve these digital stories for upcoming generations.
The value, like a legacy, is that you carry a smart tool in your pocket or purse and your gene-linked heritage can progressively be accessible with a touch on the screen.
Think about it. Such Norwegian-American stories could potentially be of interest in local libraries, state heritage centers and possibly sorted and scaled upwards to the Library of Congress “ Folklife Center,” or on a dedicated genealogy-style Web portal where stories of immigration, pioneers and Norwegian-American ancestry can be collected online and shared with an e-community of viewers.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 6, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.